by Lindsey Abernathy, Project Manager
Since beginning a yearlong fellowship in the UM Office of Sustainability in August, Kendall McDonald has worked to advance sustainability education among students on campus.
The results of her work are evident in the university’s new EcoReps program, which has grown from one residence hall to include seven under McDonald’s leadership.
“EcoReps is a residential and volunteer group for students who want to be engaged in sustainability in their residence halls,” said McDonald, who serves as the Office of Sustainability Post Baccalaureate Fellow. “They take on a position of leadership as a source for information about sustainability in their residence halls.”
McDonald, who graduated from UM in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in public policy leadership, has drawn from her experiences as an undergraduate to develop new programming for the Office of Sustainability. Currently, McDonald is planning a Change Agents Workshop intended to empower and connect student sustainability leaders on campus.
“When I was a student, I felt that a lot of my peers had all of this interest in making our campus better and improving things,” McDonald said. “There’s no shortage of interest. It just seemed that a lot of students didn’t necessarily know how to do this. I feel that our work could really be strengthened if we also invested in our student leadership and helped them make those connections.”
McDonald’s work doesn’t stop with providing resources to students. In January, she facilitated the office’s first-ever Sustainability Forum for UM faculty and staff. The event drew about a dozen interested employees who discussed ongoing initiatives, updated others on their own efforts and asked questions.
“This is part of a continuing effort to offer more opportunities for people in our campus network to get together, talk about sustainability, increase our knowledge and share with each other,” McDonald said. “In sustainability, we’re trying to foster a culture of change and we can encounter obstacles and resistance. It’s beneficial to people who are interested in this field to know that there are other people out there who support their objectives.”
McDonald is also working to establish a Lunch & Learn series to offer regular opportunities for networking among the campus sustainability community. On April 27, UM Architect, and Director of Sustainability Ian Banner will speak on operational sustainability and the campus master plan as part of the Lunch & Learn series.
For McDonald, her interest in the environment began in high school, when her mother took the family on summer trips to national parks. In college, it expanded into an interest in the sustainability field.
“I became interested in sustainability specifically when I was a junior [at UM] and I started interning with the Office of Sustainability as a Green Grove Coordinator,” McDonald said. “That’s when I started to understand the policy component to environmental issues, and how it applies within the context of higher education.”
As a UM student, McDonald was active in environmental initiatives, helping to coordinate university’s gameday recycling initiative Green Grove and the annual Green Week celebration. Additionally, her honors thesis focused on exploring environmental attitudes and orientation of UM students, faculty and staff. In 2014, McDonald was awarded a prestigious Udall Scholarship honorable mention, an honor that recognizes students’ commitments to careers in the environment, American Indian health care or tribal public policy, leadership potential, academic achievement and record of public service.
Through her fellowship, McDonald has also co-coordinated the office’s 2016 Green Week celebration and mentored two students in the Green Student Intern Program. In April, she traveled to Baltimore to attend the Smart & Sustainable Conference.
“I’ve been surprised about how many opportunities I have to be creative and to think of creative solutions to problems that are ambiguous in nature,” McDonald said. “My experience as fellow has been very beneficial and very diverse.”
Applications for the Office of Sustainability’s 2016-17 Post Baccalaureate Fellowship will open in late April. Visit green.olemiss.edu for more information.